- Entry-level portrait photographers make $8 to $10 per hour
- The photography industry is highly competitive
- Commercial photography is a great way to get your photography career started
What do portrait photographers do?
So you're thinking about getting into photography. It's what you love, and you've documented your entire life in 3"x5" snapshots (maybe 8"x10" for the really important stuff). But you probably already know that the photography field is highly competitive. So how do you get started?
Jobs in commercial photography, like portrait photography, are an excellent option. Portrait photography companies offer full-time and part-time positions, the pay is steadier than freelance work, and you can get great perks like benefits, store discounts and flexible scheduling.
Portrait photographers take pictures of individuals or groups and usually work in a commercially owned studio or on location (like at a school or amusement park). You'll need to be a multi-tasker, because in addition to taking pictures you'll probably have to schedule appointments, set up your equipment, keep records, and sometimes train new employees. Because most photography is done digitally, you'll also need to be good with technology, such as different kinds of digital cameras and computers. Physically, you'll need sharp eyesight or corrective lenses and good hand-eye coordination. Mentally, you'll need to be patient enough to deal with small children and difficult customers.
Employers will expect you to be comfortable working with all types of people, from infants to great-great-grandparents. Some of your time will be spent taking pictures, but even more of it will be spent trying to get the perfect smile and then helping your customers decide which pictures make them look the best.
How much do portrait photographers make?
A picture might be worth a thousand words, but a job taking pictures is worth a lot more. The average pay for a portrait photographer is usually around $8 to $10 per hour. If you get into portrait photography and love it, you'll have the opportunity to move up. Studio managers typically make between $15 and $18 per hour.
While many colleges offer degrees in photography, it's not really necessary for an entry-level portrait photographer position. Most employers will offer on-site training to familiarize you with the specific types of equipment they use. If you have some basic knowledge of how to use a camera (digital and film) and you feel comfortable learning new computer programs without a lot of difficulty, you should be fine.
Career paths for portrait photographers
If you're working for a large company like JC Penney Portrait Studios, Picture People, or SharpShooter Imaging, you'll likely have the opportunity to move up within the company into management roles. With several years of experience under your belt, you might be able to teach photography or open your own portrait studio. Skilled photographers charge thousands to shoot a wedding or other big event.
The future of portrait photographer jobs
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of photographers is expected to grow 12 percent between 2008 and 2018. That means there is no crazy growth spurt expected in available photography jobs. Keep in mind that the need for photographers may shrink as more and more people take their own pictures using digital technology.
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